Brandie Piper & Sam Clancy
Published Sept. 17, 2016 on USAToday.com.
UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo.— Protesters broke windows of storefronts in this St. Louis-area suburb and threw objects at police Saturday as violence flared for a second night following the acquittal of a white former police officer in the fatal shooting of a black man.
The University City Police Department said 23 businesses and five police vehicles were damaged by people throwing rocks, bricks, water bottles filled with paint thinner or gasoline and balloons filled with red liquid. They said no civilians or police officers were seriously injured. A total of nine arrests were made, according to law enforcement officials.
The protests began Friday after a judge’s ruling clearing former St. Louis Metropolitan police officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith. Eleven police officers were injured and 33 people were arrested in Friday night’s protests.
The disturbance by a small group of protesters in the Delmar Loop area of University City followed a day of tense but mostly calm demonstrations Saturday afternoon. Following a peaceful march in the evening, a few dozens protesters refused to leave despite being ordered to leave by police, who said the protest was unlawful. Police in riot gear and armored vehicles moved in, and demonstrators retreated to a nearby street, where some businesses were damaged.
Earlier Saturday, demonstrators marched through West County Mall chanting “Black lives matter!” and “No justice, no peace!”
After leaving West County, they moved to Chesterfield Mall, and then the Taste of St. Louis, carrying the same message of protest.
A spokesperson for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that nine St. Louis officers, one Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper, and one St. Louis County officer were hurt Friday night. One of the city officers was hit with a brick. O’Toole said the injuries to St. Louis police officers include a possible broken jaw and a dislocated shoulder.
The band U2 canceled its Saturday night concert in St. Louis because the police department said it wouldn’t be able to provide its standard protection for the event, organizers said.
For weeks, activists had been threatening civil disobedience if Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis Metropolitan police officer, were acquitted of murder for killing Anthony Lamar Smith following a high-seed chase.
Stockley was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in May 2016, about 4 1/2 years after shooting and killing Smith on Dec. 11, 2011. Stockley opted for a bench trial – a trial without a jury – before veteran Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson.
On Friday, Wilson made his decision, finding Stockley not guilty on both counts.
At the trial, Stockley testified that he saw the 24-year-old Smith holding a silver revolver as he sped away at the start of the chase. He said when he shot Smith, he felt he was in imminent danger.
Prosecutors said Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting — Stockley’s DNA was on the weapon but Smith’s wasn’t.
Dashcam video from Stockley’s police car captured him saying he was “going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it.” Less than a minute later, he shot Smith five times.
Stockley’s lawyer dismissed the comment as “human emotions” uttered during a dangerous pursuit.
In his decision, Wilson wrote that the statement “can be ambiguous depending on the context.”
Wary of the protests that broke out in 2014 in nearby Ferguson over the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer, authorities took precautions in St. Louis. Barricades were erected around police headquarters and the courthouse, among other sites, in anticipation of the verdict.
Demonstrators went to the mall Saturday after gathering in Heman Park to discuss their next move.
“Economically, we’ve been excluded,” one demonstrator, Amir Bradley, told KSDK-TV. “There’s only two things this system understands: Money and eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth. The second, we’re not engaged in, so we have to affect this system economically. Today, we are going to shut down a mall.”
In St. Louis, protests late Friday were mostly peaceful until demonstrators spattered red paint on St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home and broke a window, prompting riot police to lob tear gas to disperse crowds.
On Friday, following the verdict, Al Watkins, attorney for Smith’s fiancée and daughter, said the family is devastated and appalled by the judge’s ruling. Watkins said he and the family take particular issue with a statement in the ruling they consider to be prejudicial: “Finally, the Court observes, based on its nearly thirty years on the bench, that an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly.”
“We all know what ‘urban’ means. Urban means ‘black.’ I find that to be offensive,” Watkins said. “I find that to be demonstrative of a judge who thinks that those who are reading this verdict are morons.”
Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said she was disappointed by the judge’s decision because prosecutors presented sufficient evidence of guilt. Despite the ruling, Gardner says nothing would stop her from continuing to provide every person with a fair and impartial legal process.
“This verdict will not stop me,” Gardner said.
Contributing: Associated Press